I have been wanting to do something like this for a while but felt it was kind of unnecessary. The recent flair up of debate regarding Ichiro's future with the team, however, has gotten me thinking about it again.
I can't speak for anyone else, but for me personally, Ichiro has been a lot more than just the best player on the M's for the last decade, he was and is one of the main reasons why I am as big a fan as I am of the Mariners and of baseball in general. I spent my early childhood in the northwest as a die hard M's fan, mostly because of my dad. In 2000, however, my 12 year old self basically checked out from following baseball after the M's traded Griffey, a crime that I felt I could never forgive.
During the 2000 season I didn't attend a single M's game in person for the first time since 91. I couldn't tell you anything about that season (I honestly had no clue the M's went to the playoffs that year until I looked it up just now) and I don't think I watched a single game in its entirety. During the off-season that year I continued to pay basically no attention to baseball. I remember being vaguely aware that A-Rod left but I didn't really care, and I took little to no notice of anything else that happened. Then in late March of 2001 I started to hear people talking about the M's new Right Fielder from Japan. They said he was the best player ever in NPB, the second most popular person in Japan behind the Emperor, that he could get to first base faster than anyone in the world, that his defense was legendary, and that his approach to the game was unbelievable.
I was intrigued. Without seeing him play a single inning, Ichiro got me excited about baseball for the first time in over a year, and a couple weeks later I sat down to watch the M's opener against the A's (because who else would it have been against?), the first game I remember actively going out of my way to see. Once Ichiro picked up his first MLB hit I was hooked again. After baseball broke my heart when Griffey left Seattle Ichiro taught me how to love again.Now, with Ichiro's career winding down, I find myself thinking a lot about all the amazing things I have watched him do, and how much joy he has brought me at times when there wasn't a lot else to like about this franchise. With that in mind I want to talk about some of my favorite Ichiro memories. I am going to limit myself to the moments I actually remember watching and share some of what I remember about each one. I don't have any special insight into any of these, this is just my way of saying thank you to one of the greatest players I have ever seen at a time when it is all too easy to forget how great he really was. (Note: some of these videos of awful, or unnecessarily long, you can thank MLB and their insane video policy.)
Ichiro's MLB debut/first hit: 4/2/2001 (The video covers more than just that game but it's in there)
The Throw: 4/11/2001
Have you ever been sitting at home watching a game and seen a play so incredible you forget where you are and react like you're in the stadium? I was watching this game with my uncle. As Ichiro came up throwing we were both leaning forward in our seats, by the time the ball got to third we were both on our feet, and by the time Long was called out we were both jumping up and down screaming.
262 Hits: 2004
Ah 2004, the year everything fell apart. What an awful time to be an M's fan. Until August. Then Ichiro single-handedly gave us a reason to care (made even better by a classic Dave Neihaus call that is utterly butchered in this video, thanks mlb.com)
Ichiro Robs Garret Anderson: 5/25/05
There is just so much I love about this play. Not only does Ichiro nearly climb out of the field of play to make the catch, he does it against the Angels which makes it even better.
All-Star Game Inside the Park Home Run: 7/10/07
This is the last time I remember actually finding the All-Star game interesting. It might also have been the first time.
Wall-Off Single Against Toronto: 7/28/09
This is probably my favorite one because it's the only one I saw in person. It is still strange to me that this was Ichiro's first walk-off hit, a fact made even more strange by the fact that he picked up 2 more before the end of the season. I think we can all agree that the last one was probably the best.
Ahhaha Fuck the Yankees: 9/18/2009
No really, fuck the Yankees. Everything is better when it causes the Yankees to lose.
イチローの逆転ホームランでアメリカ滅亡 (via scottchu)
Ichiro Returns to Japan: 3/28/12
There are the obvious reasons why this was really cool; Ichiro getting the first hit of the MLB season back in his home country, but for me I will always remember it because as the time I got up at 3 AM to watch the Mariners play the A's, something I probably never would have done if 11 years earlier, Ichiro hadn't reminded me of why I loved baseball in the first place.